This being the 21st century, there's another type of watch on the market that may be as radical a change as the introduction of the quartz caliber. Smartwatches are essentially wrist-worn, touchscreen computers that have roots giving back to the early 1980s, but started to appear in their present form about 10 years ago.
When they first came on the market, modern smartwatches were cranky and expensive and had to be paired with a smartphone in order to work. They've come a long way since then and now show the same broad range in price and capabilities as other computing devices. In fact, it wasn't that long ago that traditional watch companies saw them as the next big thing and were worried that the smartwatch would be the new quartz watch.
Today, the panic has died down as early smartwatch companies folded and the tiny computers started to settle into their market niche. There are smartwatches that can not only operate without linking to a smartphone, but they have GPS, accelerometers, and heart-rate sensors to act as fitness monitors in addition to notifying the wearer of texts, instant messages, social-media posts, and app alerts. Some can even make calls and have voice control.
However, smartwatches still have their issues. Unlike quartz watches, they need to be recharged on a regular – often daily – basis, depending on use. They also tend to be bulky and comfort can be a problem. In addition, they go obsolescent so fast that buying one housed in anything but the cheapest case is a bad investment.
But perhaps the biggest factor governing the future of smartwatches is that they aren't just competing against conventional watches, but also emerging technologies like AI speakers and digital assistants. Smartwatches already suffer from the question of what problem do they actually solve. If something like a more advanced version of Alexa manages to solve that problem first, then the smartwatch could start to fade like the digital watch or vanish almost entirely like the PDAs of the 1990s.